Antoine Bienvault / Credits: THOMAS SAMSON / AFP 08:52, March 1, 2024

The elite unit of the National Gendarmerie is celebrating its 50th anniversary this Friday March 1st.

On this occasion, Europe 1 returns to its most famous operation: Marignane.

In 1994, the GIGN stormed the airport tarmac and freed 172 hostages held by the GIA (Islamist Armed Group).

The images remained engraved in the memory of all the French people present in front of their television that day.

On December 26, 1994, the GIGN stormed the tarmac of Marignane airport and freed 172 hostages held by the GIA (Islamist Armed Group).

The epilogue of a 54-hour long hostage-taking, which still remains today as the main feat of arms of the elite group of the National Gendarmerie.

Hostage-taking begins in Algiers

It all started the day before, December 25, 1994 in Algiers.

Four GIA terrorists board an Air France flight just before takeoff, posing as police officers.

They take control of the plane and ask the control tower to remove the boarding bridges so they can take off.

Faced with the refusal of the Algerian authorities, they then executed two hostages, an Algerian police officer and a Vietnamese national.

Other hostages were released as a sign of “good faith”.



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Then, a few hours later, they killed a French employee of the French embassy in Algiers.

Under pressure from Paris, the Algerian government finally agreed to let the plane fly to France.

The aircraft lands in Marseille, due to lack of sufficient fuel to reach the capital.

This is where the men of the GIGN, mobilized from the start of the hostage-taking, are waiting for him.

An attack of rare violence

After several hours of negotiations, the GIGN decided to attack.

At 5:12 p.m., three GIGN teams entered the plane.

Two of them rush through the rear doors to evacuate the hostages, while the last goes to the front of the plane, as close as possible to the terrorists taking refuge in the cockpit.

For fifteen minutes, bullets rained down, grenades exploded.

A co-pilot throws himself out of the window to avoid the shots, before fleeing, his leg broken by his fall.

At the end of a bloody fight, the four terrorists were finally killed.

Nine members of the GIGN were injured during the assault, but all the hostages were evacuated unharmed.

The gendarmes will be congratulated immediately by the Minister of the Interior Charles Pasqua and the Prime Minister Edouard Balladur.

Well-deserved congratulations because the assault on Marignane remains today the GIGN's main feat of arms.